By the time I left the arts education organization I founded in the early 2010s, I had spent the better part of a decade incorporating a business, writing and negotiating service contracts, and working with creative intellectual property. I enjoyed the nitty-gritty, down-to-details aspect of the law-related work I was doing, and I imagined I’d like to explore the other side of it—as an attorney. I decided to go to law school. On paper, the transition made sense. But once I made my decision, I wasn’t sure what to do next.
When I called my mother to tell her I was pursuing law school, she said, “Oh, good. I’m glad you have a plan.”
I did not feel like I had a plan.
Reading online forums, I had barely scratched the surface of understanding what it meant to be a new law student: according to The Internet, law students typically have the benefit of generations of lawyers laying a well-lit path forward. I didn’t have that. And navigating the experience as a first generation law student can feel like fumbling through a fog. Isolating, confusing, and overwhelming. Whoops, didn’t see that tree branch there. Ope, twisted my ankle. Oh, no—what was that sound? Better keep moving.
But there’s good news: As I stumble along my path, I’m learning two important lessons that may help you as you walk yours:
- Even though it feels like as first gens we’re starting out behind others, we’re not. Not really. Preparedness is a spectrum, and our place on it is determined by so much more than what our grandfather did for a living. We’ve all got strengths and weaknesses going in. The fifth-generation law student might not have your grit or study habits or intuition. There are a million data points that establish your place on that spectrum. Don’t count yourself out before you even start just because you’re not the third esquire in your family.
- Stumbling along on a foggy, unpaved path can feel demoralizing, but there are methods that can make your way clearer and brighter.
I can’t promise the fog ever lifts completely. I’m a 0L, just starting law school this fall, so I’m only a short way into my journey. But I can tell you that even as I fumble along now, there have already been folks who point out tree branches and gopher holes in front of me, shout encouragement from somewhere in the darkness, and lend a small flashlight.
And now I can share a bit of that light with you, too.